ERIK DURM was never going to cancel Christmas, not with his mother visiting from Germany to celebrate her birthday as well as the festive season.
But the Huddersfield Town full-back admits the club’s perilous Premier League position cast a long shadow over what many regard as the most wonderful time of the year.
“Christmas for us (in Germany) is the 24th,” said Durm, more used to a winter break than playing four games in 12 days as the Terriers did this term.
“Christmas Eve is also my mum’s birthday. My parents were here and my girlfriend. It was a nice evening.
“It was also special for me to play in these games over Christmas for the first time. But because of the situation we are in it was not that happy a Christmas or New Year.
“I would be wrong if I said it was the best Christmas I have ever had because of our situation.”
Durm’s festive worries were understandable, but, if anything, Town’s predicament has worsened considerably since Christmas.
Defeat at Manchester United on Boxing Day was perhaps to be expected, not least because the hosts had been considerably lifted by the return of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Town performed well at Old Trafford, just as they had in the December losses to Bournemouth, Arsenal and Brighton & Hove Albion.
The trip to Fulham three days later, however, was a very different story. Huddersfield were woeful. Claudio Ranieri’s side were not much better.
But, crucially, the London club possessed a forward in Aleksandar Mitrovic capable of providing a bit of magic totally out of keeping with what had gone before to clinch all three points in stoppage-time.
Durm was distraught at the final whistle, his slump to the floor not totally dissimilar to how a heavyweight boxer hits the canvas after taking one punch too many.
Further punishment followed three days later when Burnley triumphed 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium to leave Huddersfield eight points adrift of safety at the foot of the table.
Few hold out much hope of Town coming back from such a deficit, but Durm, part of the Germany squad that won the World Cup in 2014, insists all is not yet lost.
He has not changed his character with the players. He is still focused on bringing the analysis about the opponents to us. He still believes, and we all believe.Erik Durm
Ahead of today’s trip to fourth-bottom Cardiff City, the 26-year-old said: “Of course sometimes I look at the table, but you don’t feel better afterwards, so I try not to look too much.
“Instead just focus on Cardiff and know that Cardiff is the first team just above the relegation zone. We have to try and keep this gap as small as we can.
“Three points against Cardiff would help to get nearer to them and (second-bottom) Fulham, who are on 14 points. It definitely would help. So this is what we will try to do. But first we have to think about Cardiff.
“This is definitely a rough time, but we still believe we can stay up.”
Results may have been poor during Durm’s first season in the Premier League. But considering he arrived in this country on the back of three injury-ravaged years in the Bundesliga the full-back’s tally of 18 appearances after having to wait until September for his top-flight bow is commendable.
Coming back from two knee operations, surgery on his hip and, most recently a year ago, torn ankle ligaments proves Durm is a fighter. It is a trait Town will need not only today, but also in the coming weeks and months.
“I would lie if I said this is not a hard and rough time for me,” he added. “You cannot separate football from your personal life.
“For me this is not possible and for my team-mates it is not possible. If you win a game the whole week afterwards is much, much better for you and your family.
“It does not matter if it is raining outside, it is definitely a much better week after a win. In football this is what it is really all about.
“I can only speak for me personally, but this is definitely a very hard situation. Very hard for my family also because they talk to me and ask how I feel.
“Of course I don’t feel that good and this is a normal process. If you don’t have success you can’t feel good in your personal life because it all connects together.
“So we have to try and change this into success and then we will have more fun.”
Victory in south Wales today would, of course, be a start. Jason Puncheon is set for his league debut in Town colours after joining last week on loan from Crystal Palace as David Wagner’s men look to end a nine-game losing run that is already a club record.
Asked how the head coach whom he first played under at Borussia Dortmund is coping with his side’s struggles, Durm replied: “I don’t know exactly what is going on inside him.
“But I can only expect he has the same feelings as us. It is always frustrating not to win after the last six or seven games during this rough period over Christmas time.
“But he has not changed his character with the players. He is still focused on bringing the analysis about the opponents to us. He still believes, and we all believe.
“It is important we have a plan about how we can do it and definitely the Cardiff game is very important.”
Wagner has already proved himself capable of overcoming the odds after first leading Town into the Premier League and then keeping the club there last May.
Snapping his side out of this dreadful run is the priority and Durm believes his countryman’s calm manner is exactly what Huddersfield need.
“I have never really had a coach who throws things around,” said the defender, who declined to talk about his future after entering the final six months of the one-year deal he signed last summer.
“It makes no sense to do this because it doesn’t change the situation and David knows that.
“Of course he is calm. Sometimes on the pitch he can be a little more animated, but this is because he doesn’t like to be in this position.
“We are the same, but we are in it and we all have to try our best to get out of this situation.”